You’ve probably seen website ads and natural food stores promoting miracle foods and potions that claim to boost your immune system. Are they worth the money?
In reality, a healthy lifestyle will probably do more for your immune system than anything you can buy. The same habits that keep you strong and fit will maximize your resistance to infection and illness.
At the same time, it’s important to follow the advice of public health experts related to contagious illnesses, such as COVID-19. Practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, and call your doctor promptly if you have any symptoms that concern you. Sensible precautions and healthy choices can lower your risk of disease. Consider the following simple ways to enhance your immunity.
Eating Habits that Support Immunity:
- Eat produce. Vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants and vitamins that help fight inflammation. Current guidelines recommend one and a half to two cups of fruit and two to two and a half cups of vegetables each day.
- Avoid sugar. In addition to empty calories, sugar can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. The average American consumes 17 teaspoons daily, far more than the American Heart Association’s maximum of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 for women.
- Increase fiber. High fiber foods have a positive effect on your gut microbiome and immune functioning. Good choices include apples, potatoes, dark colored vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
- Try probiotics. Fermented foods are another source of healthy gut bacteria. Enjoy yogurt, miso, and tempeh.
- Drink tea. Tea contains a special kind of antioxidants called flavonoids that enhance immune function. Along with water, unsweetened tea also helps you to stay hydrated without extra calories.
- Add herbs. Ancient customs and modern medicine provide some support for the theory that certain herbs aid immune functions. Such herbs include garlic, ginger, and turmeric.
- Consider supplements. If it’s difficult for you to meet your nutritional needs through diet alone, you may want to take supplements. Talk with your doctor about your individual requirements.
Other Habits that Support Immunity:
- Know the signs. How can you tell if your immune system may be weak? Monitor yourself for common signs such as frequent infections, fatigue, and wounds that are slow to heal.
- Quit smoking. Using tobacco lowers your levels of antioxidants and makes you more prone to respiratory infections and other illnesses. Studies show that your chances of quitting successfully increase if you combine methods, such as nicotine replacement devices and counseling.
- Limit alcohol. Similarly, heavy drinking suppresses the immune system. If you feel like your drinking is out of control, talk with your doctor about services that may help.
- Stay social. Your mental and physical health depend on mutually supportive relationships. Make it a priority to spend time with family and friends. If you can’t physically be with them, take advantage of technology like FaceTime, Slack, Zoom, and other video chats. Even phone calls and texts can benefit you.
- Lose weight. Being obese or overweight puts an extra burden on your immune system. Shed pounds safely with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
- Work out. Slimming down is just one of the benefits of physical activity. Find a variety of sports and classes that you enjoy, so you’ll want to stick with your program. For more fun and greater accountability, invite a friend to join you. Many places even offer virtual classes if you wish to participate at home.
- Manage stress. Chronic tension increases hormones that interfere with your immune system. In addition to exercise, relax with meditation and music.
- Sleep well. One study found that adults who slept for at least 7 hours each night were 4 times less likely to get a cold compared to those who slept for 6 hours or less. Set a consistent bedtime and stick to it.
Even when you’re at rest, your immune system is working to protect you day and night. Taking care of your body will help it to do its job so you can lead a long and active life.